CES - Nokia slims phone and adds a new Internet tablet

Nokia unveiled two new mobile phones -- one slim clamshell model and one designed for bloggers -- and an updated Internet tablet at CES on Monday

Nokia unveiled a slim mobile phone, a mobile phone for bloggers and an updated wireless Internet tablet with VOIP capabilities at the CES show in Las Vegas on Monday.

The new Nseries devices let users work with music, video and images over the Internet, as single-purpose mobile devices have become less attractive to users, Nokia said.

The N76 is a 13.7 millimeter-thick clamshell phone that resembles Motorola's popular Razr phone. It contains a digital music player and 2-megapixel camera that can be operated while the phone is closed using buttons and a screen on the outside.

With an optional 2G-byte microSD memory card, the N76 can hold up to 1,500 songs encoded by Nokia's Music Manager software, or 250 songs encoded at a higher data rate by other software. It can play songs in AAC or Windows Media formats, including those locked by Microsoft's Windows Media DRM (digital rights management) technology.

The phone could help Nokia continue to grow its share of digital music player sales. During 2006, Nokia sold almost 70 million devices with music players, making it the largest manufacturer of portable music players, said Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, chairman and chief executive for Nokia, speaking Monday at CES. Nokia's studies show that 70 percent of its customers who own music player phones regularly use the music-playing feature, he said.

The N76 also contains Nokia's Web browser software, and can send e-mail and instant messages. The phone should ship by March and have an unsubsidized retail price of Euro 390 (AUD$652), Nokia said.

Nokia's new flagship blogging device, the N93i, is also focused on video, with a swivel head for shooting and viewing. It ships with a 1G-byte miniSD memory card, which can store 45 minutes of DVD-like quality video in MPEG-4 VGA format, Nokia said. The phone also comes with video editing software.

The N93i has a 3.2 megapixel camera, supports wireless broadband and can handle streaming TV. Nokia said the phone should be released by March with an unsubsidized price of Euro 600 (AUD$1000).

Nokia struck a partnership with blog hosting company Six Apart to make it easy for N93i users to upload voice and video to the company's Vox blogging service. Users of some other Nseries phones can download the file settings to use the service.

The other new device, the N800 Internet Tablet, performs faster and is better at keeping continuous Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections alive than its predecessor, the 770, the company said.

Nokia is marketing the N800 as a device that offers a desktop-like Internet experience on the road. It has an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, and is based on the Linux open-source operating system.

When the 770 originally hit the market, industry observers were surprised to see that despite Nokia's strength in the mobile market, the device wasn't capable of connecting to cellular networks. Currently, 20 percent of homes in the U.S. and Europe have Wi-Fi networks so the N800 and the 770 were designed to appeal to that growing market, said Kallasvuo.

The tablet will also benefit from a software update adding VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) capabilities later this year. Nokia and Skype will jointly develop software enabling the N800 to make and receive calls over the Skype VOIP service. The software should be released for download by June, the companies said.

Nokia will also work with RealNetworks to develop a Rhapsody music player client for the N800.

Nokia will develop the tablet with WiMax capabilities in the first half of 2008 as one device that can be used by Sprint Nextel Corp. customers. Sprint recently announced that Nokia is one vendor it chose to build its WiMax network and supply user devices.

The N800 is available now in some European markets and the U.S. for around US$399, Nokia said.

In another agreement, Nokia said that as part of its work with Yahoo announced at CES last year, Yahoo's Go services -- comprising instant messaging, e-mail support and address book synchronizing -- have been extended to Nokia's Series 40 phones.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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